by Briana Sutherland
People everywhere in the Elk River community enjoyed a night getting to know their neighbors during the Night to Unite event on Aug. 2.
Night to Unite is an event in which the Elk River police and fire departments travel through the community to promote community involvement in crime and drug prevention activities, strengthen police and community relations and encourage citizens to get to know their neighbors.
The Elk River Activity Center hosted an afternoon gathering for local seniors complete with pizza, pop, playing pool, door prizes and an AED defibrillator demonstration.
Cheryll Edinger, a veteran community service officer and coordinator for Night to Unite, was one of the many members of the police department present at the Activity Center.
“It’s all about getting to know your neighbors,” Edinger said.
Police Chief Brad Rolfe briefly spoke to seniors about crime prevention and the relationship between the police department and the community.
“The good news is that Elk River is an extremely safe community but it’s not to say Elk River is crime-free,” said Rolfe. “The two primary calls we receive are for car theft and fraud.”
He reminded seniors to always keep their vehicles locked and to not leave valuable items in their car, even when it’s parked in their driveway. He also reminded seniors to avoid cashing checks and sending money to organizations overseas, no matter how legitimate they may seem.
Steve Dittbenner, ambulance coordinator for Elk River, demonstrated how to properly use an AED defibrillator by using a mannequin.
At Evans Meadows, neighbors gathered between buildings to enjoy the fresh air, a bounce house, music, a Velcro wall and a potluck dinner provided by other residents.
Larry Klein, manager of the property, enjoys Night to Unite each year. Past events at Evans Meadows include Navy SEALs and demolition derbies for a typical crowd of over 400 people.
“I really enjoy getting together with everyone and getting to know each other,” said Klein.
Marie Carter, a second-year Night to Unite attendee, feels the same. “I enjoy gathering with people and getting to know the neighbors,” said Carter.
Kim Kohler brought her son, Aden, and his friend, Jaiden Colbath, to enjoy the activities for the children such as the bounce house. This is the second year Kohler has lived in Evans Meadows and the first year she has attended Night to Unite.
“I really want the kids to have a good time. I work second shift and don’t get to meet a lot of people around here,” said Kohler.
Citizens from all over the community were welcome at a large celebration at Lions Park in Elk River. A deejay provided music throughout the evening in front of the skate park, while various events and activities such as looking at a fire truck and helicopter landing, chair massages, root beer floats, a rock wall, sidewalk chalk, bean bag toss and Crazy Hair were available to everyone who attended.
“I really enjoy working with kids and seeing them have fun,” said Gabi Rossi, a volunteer who helped with the Crazy Hair table.
Matt Jackson and Michelle Pochucha from Sherburne County Health and Human Services had a booth that educated citizens on proper child passenger safety.
“We’re out here trying to educate the public on proper car seats,” said Jackson.
Volunteers from Target helped keep families cool by serving root beer floats.
“I enjoy volunteering and doing our part to contribute to Night to Unite,” said Mike Abeln, a volunteer from Target.
“Target likes to help contribute to our community and get to know our neighbors,” said David Bury, another Target volunteer.